Bullied at work? Workplace bullying? Bad manager or coworkers? Multiple bullied by officialdom, clients etc. Recovery from the trauma, solutions and coping. Building resilience one step at a time together!
On 2 February I attended the Greenwich Political Economy Research Centre (GPERC) conference on The Economic Impact of Brexit. The conference was left leaning, but the attendees were of a high quality and I found their arguments measured. The purpose of my attending was to better understand whether Brexit will increase the risks of workplace bullying which is already at epidemic proportions.
Matthew Pennycook – Greenwich and Woolwich MP and Shadow Minister for exiting the EU (spoke first but his short address in the main concentrated on his family and how tiring it is juggling fatherhood and parliament and why he voted for Article 50. Juggling fatherhood and work may be an interesting future subject for Cancerbullied.
Sian Errington – UNITE union, political officer
John Palmer – former European Editor of the Guardian
Andrew Harrop – Fabian Society General Secretary ( in short suggested progressive politicians reach out to a disaffected populous.)
Dr Ernst Stetter – Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) Secretary General
Prof Ozlem Onaran – Director of GPERC
Chair – Mehmet Ugur
IS THERE HOPE
Sian Errington – Hope requires action
For the purposes of work-bullying I found that Sian Errington addressed the more pressing issues for us at Cancerbullied. ie Will Brexit make things better or worse!
She expressed in particular,her fears for workers rights and free trade agreements which could affect the profitability of companies. She stated trends show that since the financial crash that wages are slumping already and falls in living standards increasing. She also expressed concerns for gender and ethnicity issues arising against a backdrop of lack of investment.
She felt that whilst some “loose change” may be being invested in infrastructure there was no growth strategy and substantial investment pledge to tackle the risks of Brexit. She told us that already 42 per cent of businesses had ditched investments. Overall 65 billon of investment has been ditched from the threat of leaving the single market. “Our rights and standards will be determined by this”
She foresaw little job creation in high value quality work and that any growth will be is
in low value and zero hour contracts and the GIG economy. She noted that these are areas where there is low union representation. She stated that the continued decline in union density has reduced and may continue to reduce gross domestic product by a significant percentage
She also lamented the public sector pay caps and low minimum wage and reductions in collective bargaining structures.. The impact of Brexit may well result in the continued decline of union and worker representation and therefore be a bad deal for workers.
She conceded that Brexit undoubtedly means Brexit and that unions are now really working to limit damage. Those who voted leave such as blue collar workers are likely to come off worst. People on low incomes will have the most to lose. She noted that Public finances are worse now than 12’months ago.
Scarier still are cuts in social care which may continue post Brexit? It is clear that migration patterns will change which will hit sectors such as higher education. She stated that we cannot fill such work from the domestic population. Lack of support of migration in a large section of the population could, she asserts impact the ageing population as the skills deficit will impact money available to the elderly.
She pointed Britain risks negotiating from a hostile position. She stated, something which we have long been saying on the ground, that we could have considered associate membership rather than an straight in or out!
At Cancerbullied we would go so far as to say the referendum addressed the wrong questions and ‘in or out’ was too simplistic a question for so complex a decision.
Sian Errington ended on a positive note, suggesting the UK could really work on things such as fairer taxation and more on the industrial strategy. Improvements in social care and retail and rebalancing of power between workers and employers.
Our fear here at Cancerbullied is that the internal political squabbles will stultify any positive efforts to solve the issues. There is too much dogma and ego at play.
EXPERTISE IS MISSING
John Palmer (EU Expertise is missing)
Here was a most interesting journalistic observer. He noted something that was missing from the political rhetoric and posturing pre-Brexit. Where have all the experts gone?
Prior to accession into the EU he recalled the briefings and arcane and sectoral issues that would go on. However, this was at time when government could call upon specialist trade experts for advise. He stated now that the government is now virtually bereft of expertise
He notes that the “widget sector” provides no answer to how we transition from Europe to Brexit. “Our trading partners cannot begin to negotiate until they know in detail what sector by sector will be . The full horrors of what is going to be involved has filtered through and indeed they are desperately hiring now.” He notes the stress and bewilderment in the Civil Service in trying to find the expertise.
He did not say, but is no doubt aware, as we at Cancerbullied are, of the low morale of the civil service. The lack of value and trust in which it is now held. It has in our view been left to fend for itself, breeding bad management and poor quality decision making in some sectors right to the very top. (staff surveys on the civil service departments are public and bare this out). See also our previous article on Management fads.
He noted that there are “friendly countries” such as Australia who we negotiate with until our relationship has been decided. He quotes the Canada agreement with the US as a warning. “The EU and Canada are friendly and it has taken years to get to where they are now, . “My impression is there is a limit to the tolerance of a very bitter taste in Europe.” Cancerbullied has no doubt our copy book has been well and truly blotted by the rhetoric of MEP’s such as Farage. The British bulldog attitude of ‘up yours’ to Europe may come home to roost and not among those who are comfortably off already.
We ask, in our self enforced isolation can this government be relied on to forge important information networks that will tip on the landmines emerging.
Palmer pointed to the signs of an exodus of nurses from the NHS. Threats to scientific research where great deal of revenue has been generated. Threats to Academic institutions losing out on common research programs in which we may have taken the lead role.
This brings us to a controversial view in Cancerbullied, that Britain is currently turning its back on academia and does so at its peril. We risk being left behind other nations.
He moots that the Tories will be wide open to a corn laws type split.
He also mooted, and I hope I have quoted him correctly, whether there was legal precedent for continuing to challenge Article 50 right up to the two year deadline.
WILL WE BECOME A FISCAL DUMP
Dr E Stetter (The European Perpective)
Cancerbullied wonders whilst they were voting to leave the EU whether those voting considered in any way at all the effects on agriculture, law, competiton law. The power of the EU cannot be underestimated. Stetter used the example of the EU making demands of Microsoft.
We at Cancerbullied question whether deals with countries such as the United States with some poor work relations, would be any less unencumbered than those with the EU. Dr Stetter raised the negotiated trade agreement with Singapore of 1000 pages of which only 10 are related to customs.
Did when voting to leave, voters consider, Custom agreements, rules on investment, what you have to honour, government procurement, business markets, e commerce, private data, environmental standards.
Britain he asserted would be naive not to grasp that a powerful Europe would not permit lower standards on environmental and product quality to enter the EU.
It seems to us at Cancerbullied that we would no longer have an internal say if we go for a hard Brexit, but could be frozen out.
The risk for Britain is not just an increase in poor rights but that we become an environmental , social and fiscal dumping ground. The impact on the work bullied becomes plain to see. A country that does not value its environment, social platform or fiscal integrity may not value people ergo work bullying will increase
The EU will defend its own development.
POST BREXIT BRITAIN NEEDS CREATIVE THINKERS
Ozlem Onaran raised the very interesting alternative option that freedom of movement be renegotiated to link migration to job offers. This is already being considered and UK was too impatient to wait and the EU would have been unlikely to speed it up just for the UK. No
In trying to limit migration to job offers raises a number of important issues such as ,what happens if jobs disappear, what happens to the migrant is there a risk they would become a slave to the employer and undermine the domestic population.
Migration provides a very visable focus for discontent when less visible reasons may be the real issues behind dissatisfaction. Issues such as, inequality of pay, falls in bargaining powers of the trade unions, financialisation and outright cuts in public spending and technological change, globalisaton, outsourcing and relocation. If the migrants can’t come to us, the employers will go the source of cheaper labour outside the UK.
Trade does not necessarily create jobs but can destroy jobs. Export jobs to China for example. Conversely we at Cancerbullied wonder whether this would also result in the importation managerial staff from low wage countries bringing their low wage ideas to the UK.
OUR TAKE ON BREXIT
In conclusion the privatisation trends have de-industrialised whole swathes of the country and jobs in the services sector and public services were smashed in 89 and 90s on an austerity agenda. Whilst the EU drove a market based approach the British government drove this agenda in Europe more than any other country and we now reap what was sown.
The average person is so disconnected from politics they have lost their stake in democracy. Fascism has been allowed to breed in this fallow ground. The average man has forgotten the power of the working man is based in community, collectivism and unity. Thatcher’s “no such thing as society” world has made us all satellites whirling around individually, speaking as we please, manners gone and unable to connect or work out what is really going on, that is a political will by the rich and powerful and it is called ‘divide and rule’.
In work places continual change is used to disempower and unbalance the worker, has this happened to us as a populace?
Politicians used big data and data analytics to target, discombobulate, manipulate and frighten vulnerable people, talking to their natural and simple fears and hiding the detailed arguments.
It is high time that academics and non partisan voices started to try to enhance the debate and get on their soap boxes out in the public arena! Social media needs to be reclaimed for good rather than people being little tribes or islands punting around for limited ideas.
Cancerbullied is concerned that bullying will increase on the back of less protection for workers rights, less union impact and poorer wages. Poorer wages increase the risk of exploiting staff who have less opportunity to escape poor employers. If the door of Europe is also closed in our faces as a source of jobs for young professionals especially, there is also the greater risk of job dissatisfaction and brain drains to other continents.
Conversely, lack of migration to the UK may mean companies will outsource to lower wage countries leaving the UK in a non competitive and isolated position. Seeking a political balance that looks after our interests is difficult enough without Brexit. Nationalist and isolationist philosophy was overwhelmingly enforced on the younger generation by older boomer Brexiteers. Is this also a class battle where the underdog and working class are about to be firmly put back in their place?
We also express concern for the exploitation of migrant workers, and the risks of racism, sexism and gender bias returning to the workplace as rights decline. We fear the bastardisation of ‘political correctness’, a word hijacked by an actively rightwing extremist agenda, to allow people to ‘speak their mind’ no matter how extreme. This could translate into abuse of workplace and managerial abuse of power.
We are very concerned post Brexit that work bullying will increase unless there is political will to put it on the agenda, ensure that workers rights are at the top of the programme and strengthen laws against it, including our suggestion of an anti-workbullying Ombudsman.
The views expressed are those of Cancerbullied’s interpretation of the short conference at GPERC
Here is a list of our most popular blogs so that you have them at your fingertips when you need an anti-bully boost.
This link is a short blog on identifying and acknowledging bullying. This is a good route to begin recovery.
This link is a quick guide if you feel that there is an immediate bully threat
You may wish to plan more deeply how to deal with the emerging bullying situation.
If you are worried about losing your identity. Do not let the bully succeed in robbing you of it.
Bullying is traumatic. If you feel giddy and disorientated it is not your imagination.
Feeling enraged?Feeling enraged
Blaming the victim is an outmoded concept. Bullying is, in our opinion is abuse and unacceptable on any level
You have the right to empower yourself and recover from bullying. Do not let the bully succeed. They seek to destroy and eliminate but they do not have your mind. We are not yet in 1984, not yet…..
Some of our favourite reading
Some ideas for intelligent job searching if you have decided enough is enough
These are ideas and opinions to support recovery that we know we and others have tried. It is not an exhaustive list. You should seek medico legal help if required and we are not experts but just trying to get by day by day just like you. We hope we have helped. Please note there is lots more on the blog and loads of quick links to the side of the blog to other helpful sites.
Best wishes the Cancer-Bullied Team.
WHO SHE IS!
A Queen Bee is a type of female employee who through arrogant belief in her attractiveness, gossip or instilling fear gains a following of other members of staff or bystanders. These support and encourage her bullying of another targeted member of female staff. A person who she perceives to challenge her status as most popular member of the office.
A Queen Bee is a damaged individual who for psychological reasons cannot empathise and who is highly competitive and guileful.
YOU’RE POPULAR, SHE CAN’T STAND YOU
The Queen Bee will target able employees, often those who have an inherent sense of fairness, are smart and are not part of office politics. The Queen Bee regards any member of staff as fair game if in her mind they challenge her reality. She lives in a state of internal paranoia and inside is a self-doubting and miserable narcissist. Her personal and work life may be peppered with misery or self criticism and reflecting her self doubt she will go for anyone, especially women who seem more confident, happy or able than her.
The queen bee in Dawn’s case had a number of facets, she was very pretty but had had a number of disastrous relationships with bad men including a number of senior managers at Dawn’s place of work. The Queen Bee was bright and she was arrogant.
I mention her prettiness because it had been an advantage but also a bane. She used her appearance to flirt in the office and liked the attention of high status men, especially high level bosses. A halo effect meant that her appearance overrode other less attractive aspects of her personality, namely that she was a gossip. Deeply jealous of able employees she deliberately sabotaged anyone who may challenge her position as queen bee in the office
The Queen Bee identified Dawn as a competitor, Dawn was very able and also very attractive. At first the Queen Bee tried to recruit Dawn but soon realised that Dawn was a ‘heads down’ sort of worker who did not like gossip. So the Queen Bee decided that elimination of her competitor was the only solution.
The strategy she used was to isolate Dawn by spreading unfounded rumours. She also enlisted bystanders to ignore Dawn, whispering when she went in and out of the room. Additionally she would report Dawn to the senior manager regularly. Even though Dawn was a good and competent worker, because the Queen Bee was popular and also a friend of the managers outside work, her rumours did damage.
Queen Bees often use socialising outside work to recruit their posse. manager started to doubt her competence and micro manage Dawn in a way that other employees did not have to endure.
There is no definite solution to dealing with a Queen Bee. They are dangerous and unpredictable, but they are only as powerful as any company allows them to be.
Dawn was fortunate in that the level of managers above her immediate manager were not so gullible. They believed Dawn and upon looking at the make up of the office realised that the only way to block the Queen Bee was to split up the posse. They re-organised the office and split up the grouping. Unfortunately, such is the power of a Queen Bee that they may start recruiting again in another place.
Ultimately Dawn was promoted and passed the Queen Bee by,
However, this bully is not to be underestimated they can wreck havoc and destroy morale, cause financial damage and reputational damage.
DO TACTICS WORK?
Tactics often suggested, such as flattery or even calling the bully out or reporting the bully may work, however this requires great tact and decision making and often there will be no support. One essential assessment is to know how powerful the bully really is within the company hierarch.
In line with the Workplace institute of America and Bullyonline.org we subscribe to the view that bullying will only be eradicated with the direct will of the employer and using tactics risks retaliation. This must be borne in mind and the risks assessed. .
THE THREE R’s.
Practice the mantra of the three R’s recognise bullying, record it and report it to trusted individuals before even tackling the bully or HR. Remember HR is the eyes and ears of management and its primary loyalty is to stop the organisation being compromised at any cost. Keeping a diary is essential and not keeping any material where the bully may scope it out.
If the bully has isolated others it may be possible to join forces to make a case but none of this should be done without professional support..
Ultimately, seek professional advice, union advice, medico legal advice before tackling the situation. Forewarned is forearmed. Surround yourself with support as taking on a bully is extremely stressful and/or consider ultimately getting out of the situation by moving within the organisation or leaving.
The main question to ask is how much power the Queen Bee has and whether her power is too great to tackle alone or at all.
Remember for every company that tolerates bullying there is another one just like it that does not.
Credits for this article
This theme that Peggy Drexler, an author and organizational psychologist at Cornell, explores in a recent article for the Wall Street Journal entitled the “The Tyranny of the Queen Bee.” Young women seek the assistance of older women who have risen into ranks of senior management believing that such women can serve as mentors or advisors to help them succeed. In fact, as Drexler notes, just the opposite occurs. “The female boss who not only has zero interest in fostering the careers of women to aim in her footsteps, but who might even actively attempt to cut them off at the pass.”
The term “queen bee syndrome” comes from work done by University of Michigan researchers in the 1970s on issue of women bosses. According to their work published in Psychology Today in 1974 these women operating in male hierarchies sought to preserve their rare turf by thwarting attempts of other women who sought to rise as they had done. Sadly, as Drexler argues, such bias still exists.
We can all have the green eye monster within us. The Queen Bee is mostly a lost cause but recognising our failings can help us to do better than she would. For women who are jealous of other women and find themselves resisting the elevation of their colleagues, it may help to read the book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
Book by Nell Scovell and Sheryl Sandberg
Do not forget we are survivors of bullying and cannot give advice. This blog is our opinion only. In order to be sure of your ground it is essential to get professional advice.
Why is work bullying like being brokenhearted?
Belle’s story a year on ….
Cancerbullied is meant to give hope, but it is not meant to be a fairyland of positive thinking where everyone walks away into the sunset unscathed. I am not unscathed.
A TIME FOR REFLECTION.
A year ago this month I set up Cancerbullied. I am proud of it, it has had 30k hits and still counting and hopefully is giving some peace of mind to others. I can’t be sure, but I hope it is. This article is for those who still suffer the heartbreak of bullying and a realistic analysis of its true cost.
But upon waking up today I also realised that it is also just over a year ago that I suffered nearly nine months of systematic bullying by a corporate psychopath whilst still recovering from cancer and have come to the sad conclusion that I am no where near completely recovered. This bully succeeded in making a fatal attack on my career. The career I once loved, I now hate.
I AM STILL TRAUMATISED
Currently, after a bout of ill health leading to an operation I have applied for ill health retirement. I have relied on my health issues which quite apart from my chronic pain issues also includes hypertension, anxiety, high cholesterol and a heart beat that is way too high.
I believe that the decline is in my health is directly attributable to my experience of being bullied. I know it is. My counsellor knows it is, but my doctors are ignorant to the real effects of bullying. They refuse to acknowledge that stress is the primary cause of the breakdown of my health. My GP expressed surprise when I stated I was still feeling traumatised and actually expressed that he could not believe that an organisation of the level of mine could treat someone in the way I described.
LIKE A HEARTBROKEN TEENAGER NO ONE UNDERSTANDS YOU
The general ignorance of what it means to be bullied, has meant that in order to apply for medical retirement I have had to rely on my health issues which are real enough, however, the most significant reason for my needing to leave is the trauma and mental torture of finding myself unable to work effectively in my field. Knowing that my career is coming to an end because I can no longer face working in an environment where I may be bullied and an environment where I am just a working widget.
I have become truly phobic of offices and the corporate world. It feels like a jungle, it feels like I am the quarry in a den full of hunters.
However, when I tell friends, consultants, doctors of my mental plight they look at me with utter disbelief and lack of knowledge. One of my friends has expressed disbelief that I may leave my job, thinking me somewhat lazy.
Others just feel sorry for me and point out that I spent years studying, to what end, if I am willing to give it all up. They regard me as a failure.
What they fail to understand is that bullying is insidious and saps all energy and strength from even the strongest person.
It may seem strange that I have had the strength to set up a website but no strength to fight the bully legally or to try to just go back to work and just get on with it because I am physically and mentally drained.
I am not ready to leave my profession but must go to preserve my sanity. I have no outlet for my mental struggle because no one who has not been bullied understands me, including some of my health professionals.
I do not mean to say that one cannot recover but the scars are there, and the trauma resurfaces from time to time, I am weakened and changed by the experience.
I am not going to lie, being work bullied has changed me. I am not who I was. In the middle of my years I realise I need to find another way, another path. The path will be one with less money, less security and less certainty. By leaving my profession I will certainly have to give up many luxuries. Retiring early will dent my pension plan. I am less trusting and more on alert. I am sure that working in an office environment is no longer something I can do,for physical reasons but quite apart from that because of the trauma
WHAT CAN WE LEARN?
So what have I learned? I should have got out far sooner, before my physical body suffered and whilst I was still in a fit state to apply for other jobs. I knew many years before the bullying, that the organisation was uncaring.
I have also learned that if my health professional is not sympathetic, I should insist on finding someone who is and make enquiries of other GP’s who may understand my condition and move to their practice.
I have also realised I should not feel I have to justify my personal decisions to unsympathetic friends or family. In fact I have every right to challenge their perceptions.
I must do what is best for my health even if that means considering a change in lifestyle. That I should not be ashamed that I was not able to withstand working in in a toxic and unsupportive environment and that I should value myself on a different standard now, not on my finances but on my ability to give value to others.
I live in confusion now, I am not yet out of the job entirely, I am in a system which recognises physical ill health , but not mental ill health. A system that values money above all else.
I AM ENTITLED TO FEEL SYMPATHY AND COMPASSION FOR MYSELF!
Whilst I am off sick, I have no routine and no real function. My sickness money will soon run out and I will have to use other resources to fund me until either I am retired or retire.
The political system has also cheated many of us. Robbing our pensions, reducing salaries and raising the cost of essentials. Many of us are in a catch 22 of either staying in jobs we hate or taking substantial cuts in our standard of living. Neither is particularly palatable.
Does this mean that the lot of the work bullied is to be in some sort of limbo land where there are no easy answers?
One so called friend told me to just sell up my house and move somewhere cheaper as if that was a simple solution. Leave my home, and community just like that? I would not have to consider any of this were had I not been bullied. Being bullied has changed everything.
It has changed my physical and mental health, my work ethic, my ability to do my job, my opinion, my ability to cope and my confidence. This is what bullying does.
WHO AM I?
So who am I? I am a real person, feeling a bit sorry for myself as I look back over the last few months and see how things have changed. IN Recent years, my mother died, I had cancer, I was bullied at work and my back gave out.
Currently, I cannot see my way out of this properly. I am as confused as any of you. Sometimes I can see my way out of this and sometimes I feel alone and without hope, surrounded by the chattering of those who seem to understand how the system works.
My counsellor says I need to take time to take stock. I am bereaved of my former career and life before bullying. I sure need a change of scenery and a resolution to where this journey is taking me. Right now I do not know where I am going, but I know where I have been.
SURVIVING TRAUMA IS A WORK IN PROGRESS
So I’m going to do something I haven’t done in a long time, get down on my knees and pray.
I have been thinking a lot about art. Afterall, when I started Cancerbullied as a blog a year ago I wanted people to share their art, poetry and ideas to aid recovery. I had hoped to have a gallery choc full but, no one responded. I guess recovery art is a more personal journey,or maybe people prefer to pin or instagram . Maybe I need to consider setting up a visual social media for this purpose. I shall consider this idea and see if I have time to fit it in. I am still recovering from my operation so it will have to be when I feel a bit more up to it.
Anyway, a year on from being bullied and starting the site, I have realised that though anger, frustration and bitterness and shame play a big part in the life of the target, there are no easy solutions to recovering from workplace bullying. This is why I think we should turn to art. When all else fails art survives, even in concentration camps and prisons when all hope seems lose. Not art that is necessarily fine or sophisticated, but art that helps us PLAY or EXPRESS ourselves. When we are downtrodden and low the art of play and self expression can seem lost.
I think it is irrelevant whether your art or perhaps I should say CRAFTS, are cross stitch, whittling, journaling or just blobbing paint on some paper, it is all about flow. Art brings flow and with flow comes relaxation and control.
Art and crafts can be frustrating if you seek perfection. What I am asking here is that you consider ART AS PLAY and self expression, CRAFTS AS PLAY and self expression. Your art should have no other purpose for the time being. Do not think of it as a money spinner or route out of your job yet, just do it for the sheer fun of it.
Do a class, use cards or bits of twig and stones or beads or anything, newspaper, old paint. Make something using mixed ideas and bits and bobs. Don’t like it? Keep it and revisit it you will be surprised how good it looks.
When all else around you fails, art is free! You can even just use your voice, or a pencil to write a poem.
TRY IT, YOUR GONNA LIKE IT!
due to crawlers we no longer accept comments but you can send any art pics to @bellemarsh4 on twitter or to our facebook page see link below.